AUTHOR AND TITLE

Although some scholars today have questioned Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians, the unanimous testimony of the early church fathers supports Pauline authorship. The main reasons given by those who question Pauline authorship include: (1) The eschatology of 2 Thessalonians is regarded as different from that of 1 Thessalonians. Specifically, the sudden/imminent expectation of Christ’s return in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11 is said to be inconsistent with the requirement in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12that specific signs must first take place. (2) The many commonalities between 1 and 2 Thessalonians are alleged to reflect literary dependence, which is regarded as inconsistent with Paul’s authorship of both. (3) Second Thessalonians supposedly has a colder tone than 1 Thessalonians. (4) Second Thessalonians 2:2 and 3:17 are thought to make best sense if written by a pseudonymous author.

A careful evaluation of these objections, however, supports the conclusion that Paul was in fact the writer of 2 Thessalonians. The duplicity entailed in the forgery hypothesis (see 3:17) is hardly credible. In addition, the above objections can be readily refuted: (1) Both letters portray the second coming as an unwelcome and sudden surprise for unbelievers (1 Thess. 5:2–3; 2 Thess. 2:8–12) but an anticipated and welcome event for those who are in Christ (1 Thess. 5:4–8; 2 Thess. 1:6–10; 2:13–17). Moreover, certain events precede the Lord’s return in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 as well as 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, 9–10, and imminence can be seen both in 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 and in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 10; 2:1. A sudden and imminent eschaton was regarded as compatible with signs in Jewish and early Christian writings (e.g., Matthew 24–25). (2) Paul probably wrote 2 Thessalonians shortly after 1 Thessalonians, and may have referred to a copy of it. (3) The idea of a colder tone in 2 Thessalonians is exaggerated (seeLiterary Features). (4) Second Thessalonians 2:2 and 3:17 probably reflect Paul’s concern that a forged letter may once have existed.

DATE

Second Thessalonians was probably penned from Corinth in a.d. 49–51, shortly after 1 Thessalonians.

RELATIONSHIP TO 1 THESSALONIANS

Some have proposed that 2 Thessalonians preceded 1 Thessalonians, but 2 Thessalonians 2:15 rules this out. Others have postulated that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians for a Jewish group within the church or even to the Philippians, but such hypotheses are in tension with 2 Thessalonians 1:1. Probably Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians soon after dispatching 1 Thessalonians, because he had received a report (2 Thess. 3:11) that the situation at Thessalonica had taken a surprising turn.

THEME

The theme of the second coming of Jesus dominates 2 Thessalonians just as it dominated 1 Thessalonians. Jesus’ coming will be preceded by an “apostasy” (or rebellion) and by the revelation of the man of lawlessness, the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:3). When Jesus comes, he will defeat this rebellious world ruler (2:8) and bring justice to oppressed Christians, and wrath to their persecutors and to unbelievers in general (1:5–10; 2:9–15).

PURPOSE, OCCASION, AND BACKGROUND

The Thessalonian church had accepted the strange claim that “the day of the Lord has come” (2:1–2). How could they have thought this? Some think they spiritualized the concept of the day of the Lord, but Paul’s argumentation seems inconsistent with this. Others postulate that they thought that tribulation was part of the day of the Lord and that it had begun, and consequently the second coming was imminent. However, Paul assumes that they knew the second coming occurred at the same time as the coming of the day of the Lord. As strange as it may seem, the Thessalonians may simply have fallen victim to the bizarre notion that the day of the Lord, understood in its normal sense, had come. As a result they were shaken and frightened (2:2). The Thessalonians were also undergoing persecution (1:4), which may have exacerbated their confusion about the end. Furthermore, the community had a problem with idlers refusing to work (3:6–15). They may have stopped working to await and preach the second coming, but evidence for connecting the problems in this way is lacking. Lazy Christians may simply have been exploiting wealthier Christians’ generosity in order to avoid work.

Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians (1) to reassure those terrified by the thought that the day of the Lord had come (2:1–3:5), (2) to strengthen the Thessalonians in the face of unremitting persecution (1:3–12), and (3) to deal with the problem of some of the church members refusing to earn their own living (3:6–15).

TIMELINE

Timeline

HISTORY OF SALVATION SUMMARY

Christians are to wait expectantly for the second coming of their Savior, Jesus Christ. (For an explanation of the “History of Salvation,” see the Overview of the Bible.)

LITERARY FEATURES

Second Thessalonians follows the customary order of a NT letter. It begins with a salutation and ends with a prayer and benediction. Between these bookends is found the type of informal letter that meanders through a series of topics in the way that present-day informal letters often do. There is the usual mixture of personalia (references to the letter writer’s relationship with his recipients) and public information, and Christian doctrine and practical application.

In contrast to the warm and effusive tone of 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians includes some blunt commands as Paul addresses bad behavior and bad thinking. Further, this letter is noteworthy for the author’s tough-mindedness in predicting judgment on the ungodly and rebuking church members who behave and think incorrectly. Still, there is a regular swing back and forth between reproof and warm encouragement.

KEY THEMES

1. God’s righteous judgment will be fully manifest when Jesus returns. At that time unbelievers will be condemned and believers will be saved.1:5–10; 2:9–14
2. Christians will share Christ’s glory.1:10, 12; 2:14
3. The lawless one’s revelation and humanity’s final rebellion are prerequisites for Jesus’ second coming.2:3–4, 9–12
4. The lawless one will deceive all those who have rejected the gospel, guaranteeing their condemnation when Jesus returns.2:3, 6–12
5. Christians must not exploit the charity of fellow Christians.3:6–15

OUTLINE

  1. Opening (1:1–2)
  2. Thanksgiving and Comfort for the Persecuted Thessalonians (1:3–12)
  3. Thanksgiving proper (1:3–4)
  4. Justice guaranteed when Jesus returns (1:5–10)
  5. Prayer report (1:11–12)
  6. Refuting the False Claim about the Day of the Lord (2:1–17)
  7. The false claim (2:1–2)
  8. The false claim refuted (2:3–12)
  9. Reassurance (2:13–14)
  10. Exhortation (2:15)
  11. Prayer (2:16–17)
  12. Transition (3:1–5)
  13. Request for prayer (3:1–2)
  14. Reassurance (3:3–4)
  15. Prayer (3:5)
  16. The Problem of the Idlers (3:6–15)
  17. The command to the community (3:6)
  18. The tradition (3:7–10)
  19. The problem (3:11)
  20. The command to the idlers (3:12)
  21. Instructions to the community (3:13–15)
  22. Conclusion (3:16–18)

THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS

CHAPTER 1

1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:

5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

CHAPTER 2

1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,

17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

CHAPTER 3

1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.

5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

¶ The second epistle to the Thessalonians was written from Athens.

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